City Focus: Atlanta

Shannon Lewis
|May 11|magazine14 min read

Atlanta, capital of Georgia, America’s ‘Peach State’, has ranked highly in the country with regards to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), even when taking into consideration the recession of 2008. In 2014, metro Atlanta, Atlanta’s metropolitan area, had a GDP of $324.9bn, ranking it 10th in the United States, according to Biz Journals, and demonstrating a 5.1% increase from the previous year.

In 2016, metro Atlanta had a GDP of $363.8bn, according to Statista. Named the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area by the US Census Bureau, it is the most heavily populated metropolitan area in Georgia and the ninth most populated in the country. The GDP per capita of metro Atlanta was $55,300 in 2016 according to the Open Data Network. The Open Data Network predicts that if trends continue, by 2021 the GDP per capita will decrease to $54,615. In the city of Atlanta, the approximate GDP per capita is $40,882, according to City Data, a rise from the GDP per capita in 2000 which stood at $25,772.

In 2016, Atlanta demonstrated the second-fastest economic growth in the top 10 metro areas of the United States, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Georgia as a state has a GDP of $14.32bn, making it the second largest contributor to the United States’ GDP, contributing 2.2% to the total, coming second to Florida at 5.5%, according to Biz Journals. Georgia’s GDP in 2016 was approximately double what it was averaging between 1990 and 2015, $7.64bn, according to Trading Economics. It hit a record high in 2014, at $16.51bn, and a record low in 1994 of $2.51bn, but it currently makes up 0.02% of the world’s economy, according to Trading Economics. The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell metropolitan area places tenth in terms of GDP contribution, according to Spare Foot.

Atlanta is also the largest city and most populated city in Georgia, with a metropolitan area populated with approximately 5.7mn citizens, according to Statista. As of 2016, the city of Atlanta is home to approximately 463,878 people, an increase from the previous year’s 456,002 residents, according to World Population. World Population confirms Atlanta’s population density as that of 630 people per square mile, or 243 people per sq km. Metro Atlanta is steadily becoming a popular region for immigration from other states in the country. In 2016 it gained 90,650 residents, ranking it fourth in the nation for increase in residency that year, according to AJC. One of the pulls is the new availability of jobs in the metro Atlanta area; 2016 saw the region add 77,000 jobs, the third highest amount among metro areas in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Atlanta Regional Commission.  


Janet S Rankin remarked that Atlanta placed second among the 12 metropolitan areas of the United States with regards to job growth, and third with regards to the quantity of jobs added. The largest contributor to Georgia’s economy is real estate, which, according to Biz Journals, contributes 12.1% of Georgia’s GDP. Other sectors which contribute heavily are manufacturing and public administration. Information technology has been steadily increasing in relevance in Atlanta specifically. Atlanta also sees heavy contribution from real estate, finance, insurance, transportation and utilities, and the professional and business sectors. The professional and business services sector saw the largest increase in employment in the metro Atlanta area; between 2016 and 2017, it increased by 30,500, 6.2%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Education and health saw the second-largest increase of 8,900, followed by leisure and hospitality at 7,600. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job growth of 68,300 or 2.6% in the area was over double the national average of 1.2%.

With regards to specific industries, City Data reports that though the Coca-Cola Company is a relatively influential figure in Atlanta, no individual business dominates the local economy. However, it is the service industry that hires the largest quantity of workers. In 2000, the metro Atlanta area was home to 24 Fortune 1000 companies’ headquarters and other large concerns including Delta Airlines, UPS, and Home Depot. In 2002, Atlanta was named a “Renewal Community,” which gave it access to a pool of $17bn worth of tax incentives for its businesses.

According to City Data, the nonagricultural labour force in metro Atlanta consists of 2,158,600 workers, with 1,800 in the natural resources and mining sector, 97,500 in information, 115,600 in construction, 148,000 in finances, 170,300 in manufacturing, 200,700 in leisure and hospitality, 213,100 in education and health, 287,800 in government, 337,900 in business services, and 492,000 in trade, transportation, and utilities. It is also a hub for travel connections through the air, rail, and trucks, with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport consistently being named the busiest US airport since 1998, according to WSBTV. Its terminal is approximately the size of 45 American football fields, according to Mental Floss. According to Forbes, the cost of living in Atlanta is 2% above the national average.

Top businesses

Atlanta is home to many successful businesses with constantly growing employment opportunities. In terms of quantity of Atlantean employees, the third largest business in Atlanta is Gwinnett County Public Schools. The school system oversees 20,770 employees in Atlanta as of the beginning of 2016, according to Biz Journals. Established in 1871, it is the largest school system in Georgia, serving around 180,000 students according to the school’s website. Above that, in second place, comes internationally recognised university, Emory University. Emory, established in 1915, employs 25,349 people; the majority are Atlanta based with 24,535 of those employees from the city, and 25,036 from the rest of Georgia, according to Biz Journals. Finally, the largest company in Atlanta with regards to number of employees is Delta Airlines. Established in 1941, it employs 30,813 Atlantean workers, 31,028 Georgian workers, ultimately 78,763 workers overall, according to Biz Journal. With its hub in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, it ranks 86th on Forbes’ America’s Best Employers for Diversity.